The village of Nuaguda, like many in Rayagada district, suffers from poor sanitation and a high drop-out rate among students. Ektas Behaviour Change Communication team, working in collaboration with UNICEF, visited it and 1,000 other villages throughout southern Orissa to spread messages of change.
Sanju, Manima and Daitari are three nine-year-olds who were all enrolled in school at the beginning of the year, but had all since dropped out. When Ekta first arrived they realised that there were a high number of dropouts from the village school. Their first step was to organise a meeting with parents to explain what a difference education could make to their childrens lives.
Ektas staff must strive hard to persuade parents that broadened horizons in the future outweigh the small financial benefits of sending children out to work. Ektas village facilitators work in pairs and travel from village to village. Their task doesnt stop at getting children back into school. They also spread messages about the importance of cleanliness.
Today, theyre in the schoolyard before the midday meal to teach the children the importance of hand washing. Bharati holds a bar of soap aloft before pouring water over her hands and carefully scrubbing between her fingers. Then the children get to try, and Sanju is an eager volunteer.
Lulu explains that diarrhea is prevalent in Rayagada. Before they leave the village, the pair will distribute bars of soap to the families in the hope of creating a precedent for frequent hand washing and sparing the children the effects of this unpleasant and often fatal condition. Lulu tells me that he believes spreading the word about sanitation is one of the most important parts of his work. I just want to help people lead a healthy life, he says.
After the demonstration Lulu and Bharati will hold smaller workshops with target groups, such as talking to teenagers about sexual health or pregnant mothers about antenatal health checks.
Ektas Amit Kumar Nayak oversees the BCC project. He says: The villagers and the school teacher really appreciate the importance of this cause. If with this project we have been able to make a small difference in the life of the community then I think that all our work is on the right track. He knows, however, that their messages about education and cleanliness will take time to sink in. We know that this is only the first step of our journey, he says. We still have a long way to go.